Here's how it adds up: Microsoft stock closed yesterday at 93, up 1-11/16. According to a September 1997 proxy statement (the most current one), Gates owns 270,797,000 shares in Microsoft, or 541,594,000 when adjusted for a 2-for-1 stock split that occurred in February. Last month, Gates filed papers with the Securities and Exchange Commission to sell 1.3 million of his shares, part of a periodic plan to pare back holdings. That brings his holdings to at least 540,294,000 shares, based on the most current data.
Multiplying $93 per share by 540,294,000 totals $50.25 billion, at least on paper. And don't forget the tax bill when Gates sells.
Web sites dedicated to calculating the net worth of Gates, who at age 42 is the nation's richest man, were celebrating the milestone. "If Bill were a country," his net worth would rank 43rd behind Israel but ahead of Syria, according to the Bill Gates Net Worth page. That page didn't take into account Gates's recent regulatory filing, so it pegged his net worth at $50.37 billion.
"[Gates] has been making money at a staggering half-million dollars per hour, around $150 per second," the Bill Gates Wealth Index calculated. "Which means that if, on his way into the office, should he see or drop a $500 bill on the ground, it's just not worth his time to bend over and pick it up. He would make more just heading off to work."
Upside magazine keeps a running tally of Gates's worth on the front page of its Web site. As of yesterday, the number was $49,072,759,461, but it wasn't clear if the figure had been updated to reflect the most current stock price.
But Gates isn't keeping his fortune all for himself. Despite criticism from fellow billionaires such as Ted Turner, Gates's charitable contributions are increasing. One example is the Gates Library Foundation, which Gates and his wife Melinda founded to bring computers to low-income schools throughout the United States and Canada.
All Microsoft shareholders, not just Gates, are benefiting from the recent run-up in the company's shares as well. As reported last month, Microsoft's market value now stands at more than $200 billion, making it the only company besides General Electric to belong to that exclusive club. Microsoft was founded in 1975, however, while GE traces its roots to Thomas Edison in 1878.